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DeWitt: Proposed law creates liability for cat owners

By Peter Viglietta

A new town law was proposed at the May 27 DeWitt Town Board meeting that would increase regulation of domesticated cats in DeWitt.

The ordinance, which would prohibit the feeding of stray cats and create new punitive measures for owners of disruptive cats, will be discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday, June 23 in the cafeteria of Jamesville-DeWitt Elementary School.

Under the current proposal, new language will be added to the town code including two new restrictions regarding cats -- the first, making it illegal for residents to feed cats they do not own outdoors, and the second, making it illegal for a cat to damage property or cause a nuisance on any premises other than the owner's.

Another part of the measure states that any individual who feeds or provides shelter to the cat can be considered the legal owner of the cat. Under the proposal, owners whose cats damage property or cause nuisances could be fined up to $100 and held up to 10 days in jail, or both.

Present at the meeting were a number of frustrated homeowners who gave accounts of stray cats causing disturbances, which ranged from excreting on private property, damaging lawns and scratching cars to attacking and biting residents, including children.

Bill Pulaski, a DeWitt town official who oversees animal control, was on hand to confirm the validity of the complaints, recounting reports of incidents with stray cats. Pulaski told the story of a group of children in one DeWitt neighborhood that had to be treated for rabies vaccinations after being bitten by a cat that others had observed acting erratically.

One resident reported he had seen one of his neighbors feeding stray cats and urged them to stop. This was one of several individuals on hand who argued that the increasing number of problematic cats was stemming from residents who feed the stray cats, or who leave cat food outdoors.

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